Why we need to be mentors
“To start at the beginning makes as little sense as starting at the end. And so I begin somewhere in the middle, work my way back to the beginning to indicate the origins of some of my beliefs and practices, and then return to the present, acknowledging debts and treasured connections made along the way.” —Tom Russell, “Teaching teachers”
Mentoring has been a theme for me. Trained as a high school teacher and coach, I wanted to grow up to be a principal. After time in both interim and substitute roles, I found new dreams working with young adults at Bethany College, a place of discipleship and community.
The Ministry Quest handbook defines mentoring as “an experienced person journeying with a less experienced person, for a specific time, for the purpose of intentionally guiding spiritual and personal development.” Relationship is built as two people mutually learn through regular connections. There are many who have spoken into the middle of my young adult years and the middle of my working life in the middle of the prairies.
The world blusters that no one has time for the unrealistic demands of a mentoring relationship, except perhaps for the sake of career advancement. But a disciple does not travel the way of the world; we walk the path of Jesus.
Seek to invest, learn, listen, bless, care, walk, share, correct, create, and reconcile.
Somewhere in the middle
While on a Bethany mission trip to Thailand in 2002, I saw Scripture come to life in the ajans (pastor-teachers) of the Chonburi area. It was as Paul, Silas, and Timothy wrote: “We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us” (1 Thessalonians 2:8). I wanted to be like that.
Following this call to deeper community, I became dean of student development in 2008. The department’s theme (Colossians 1:28) urges us to teach and admonish each other to maturity as we proclaim Christ.
Learn from those around you – elders, contemporaries, and “youngers” – and from the themes of life that repeat, echo, and build.
Working back to the beginning
My roots go back to a quiet farming region in southern Saskatchewan where a little country church modelled what faith community ought to be. Everyone was welcome, anyone could contribute, burdens were shared, homes were visited, and hearts were changed.
Here, I learned to love the church, the Word, and Jesus. I have fond memories of lingering in earshot of the kitchen table as my mom led weekly women’s prayer coffee times. We didn’t use the term “mentoring community” – the Gouldtown church family simply was one.
Look back to your beginnings. If your list of mentors comes up short, become one yourself.
Returning to the present
Each year, I connect with young women in the mentoring program at Bethany. My heart is for finding places, removing obstacles, creating connections, and releasing young women and men into their gifting for God’s kingdom. I want to see students engaged in places of hope, peace, and welcome, where God’s people love each other deeply from the heart (1 Peter 1:22, 2 Corinthians 5:14, 1 Peter 1:22, 1 Peter 4:8).
Often, Colossians 1:3–6 has poured out of me as a prayer: “The gospel is bearing fruit and growing throughout the whole world – just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and truly understood God’s grace” (vs. 6).
I was encouraged anew at a recent Bethany chapel service, where speaker James Penner called for “quiet conversation and communities of love” to change the world with the good news of Jesus.
A call to love
Do you have someone in mind for those conversations? I picture the people of God like an artesian spring, where the water comes from down deep, sometimes slowly, other times gushing.
The water is Christ’s love and life. It’s a deep aquifer of love that will not run dry. May our lives be places where this love is released and made visible.
“Since this is the kind of life we have chosen,… let us make sure that we do not just hold it as an idea in our heads or a sentiment in our hearts, but work out its implications in every detail of our lives” (Galatians 5:25, The Message).
Begin. Love. Listen.
Make it practical For those who are…
Quiet? Write letters.
Social? Go for coffee.
Curious? Ask questions.
Observant? Take initiative toward someone you see other people overlook.
Hospitable? Open your home as weekly practice.
Ready, but don’t know anyone? Ask a leader to recommend a young adult who would be a good fit.
Dreamer? Consider how your congregation could become a “mentoring community.”
Not fitting the list above? Start a conversation on this article online to find ideas of where to begin.
—Lisa Braun serves as dean of student development at Bethany College, is a member at Hepburn (Sask.) MB Church, and a wife and mother in the family of Rob, Maddie, and Josh. She regularly enjoys poetry, coffee, travelling, collaboration, and new ideas